Clubs in capes: why clubs can save the world

“I don’t say this lightly; clubs can save the world.”

Coming from most people, a statement like this would sound a little inflated, but given it was said by Maxwell Luthy, the Director of Trends & Insights at TrendWatching, which monitors emerging consumer trends and innovations to offer insights, it is a very encouraging sign for Queensland’s club sector.

In a first for the Sunshine State, the Keno AHG Expo will host Maxwell Luthy, a sought-after speaker and advisor to big brand names such as Google, Walt Disney, Spotfiy and even Dubai’s Government, at the Club Plus Super AHG Breakfast in Brisbane on Thursday 28 March 2019.

Luthy’s job is to essentially understand the customer of tomorrow and he believes community clubs can and should play a vital role in helping to keep communities connected in a digital era.

“The digital arena is a polarised and hard to navigate twilight zone today,” New York-based Luthy told Club Insights. “The value of in-person interactions, a sense of belonging and connection to a local community is higher than ever before.

"While the ethical and social efforts of clubs have existed for a long time, they will grow increasingly important. Consumers are disillusioned with some of the darlings of the early 21st century, from fast fashion to fast food to big tech. 

“They will welcome and rediscover the value of tossing a ball around with a group of folks from the surrounding community. This will align with their wellness goals and go far to tackle their angst around the cracks appearing in their community.

“The wellness boom isn’t over. Australian consumers aren’t going to throw away their activewear and give up their pursuit of better physical and mental health. 

“What they will demand is that the clubs sector provides easy and near-omnipresent access to peak wellbeing. Expect to see high tech and low tech solutions that embed wellness into physical spaces and products.”

Sounds daunting doesn’t it? 

Luthy, who studied economics and history and previously worked in advertising and the music industry says the question he is most asked by clients is how long he expects specific trends to last, but believe this is not the best approach in trying to understand the market and meet its needs.

“Rather than try to guess the lifespan of a trend, professionals must better understand the building blocks of the trend,” he says. “If you understand the human needs it ties back to and the changes in the marketplace that are triggering it, then you can react and adapt as the trend evolves. 

“The trends never die. They always morph into something else. So it’s not about learning them and then knowing exactly when to act, but instead instilling a discipline and culture in your organisation of constantly looking for and reacting to change. That’s hard work, but it’s the truth.

“[They need to build] a culture of foresight. I want people to think beyond hearing today’s trends and to start asking how they can spot them themselves, going forward.

“Expectations that will reshape your industry are already being formed in distant sectors and far flung markets and they will reach your door faster than you can imagine.”

Luthy said for an indication of the speed with which change will impact the market, we need look no further than the recent past where business and society were caught completely unaware of emerging trends and technologies.

“Every time a trend emerges the majority of organisations unintentionally or intentionally wait till it’s plainly obvious,” he continues. “With hindsight they ask: ‘why didn’t we react to that sooner?

“In all honesty, we have the same problem at TrendWatching and it’s our job to react to them. When the old way of doing business is keeping stakeholders happy, it’s hard to dedicate the time to seeing newly emerging opportunities.”

Encouragingly, Luthy said despite the speed and extent of change - largely around digital disruption and opportunity - the capacity of people to evolve to accept and use new technologies is “remarkable”.

“I find in my work, no matter how quickly change occurs, even when organisations are overwhelmed, people adapt,” he added. “In 2016, it was headline news when Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best Go player. Today, I could tell you an AI will win Australia’s Got Talent in 2019 and the average person wouldn’t blink.”

“The digital superpowers that people have grown accustomed to, from instant information, to easy self-expression, to personalised experiences; will be accessible in the real world. 

“From hotel rooms, to casinos, from playing fields to dining areas, this will be hard to grapple with for some consumers, but embraced by millions more.” 

And as tech continues to develop, it will continue to impact on the way we live, but not necessarily in the ways we expect.

“The past 24 months have demonstrated the limitations of the digital platforms we use,” Luthy said. “From fake news to polarisation, the impact has reached every country. 

“From Boston to Brisbane, from Mexico City to Manila, we’re seeing a lot of opportunity in rebuilding social connections through real world interaction. People are hungry for a sense of belonging, a sense that they don’t share cataclysmically opposing world views from their neighbours. This is an urgent challenge and a massive opportunity.” 

Admitting his outlook for the jobs sector in the face of emerging technologies is “optimistic”, Luthy says the jobs being lost to automation such as cashier roles are easy to see, though he believes “consumer demand will protect even the ‘simplest’ of jobs”.

What is not always so easy to see our emergent roles and economies being developed through technology.

He points specifically to the breakout two-billion-dollar success of online video game Fortnite in 2018 which created “an entire ecosystem, a new economy with new jobs, new products and new opportunities”.

“It won’t be the last,” Luthy said of the Fortnite phenomenon.

For the Clubs sector, the trend watcher said the challenge will be embracing wearable and emerging technology, which match consumer expectations, saying the now tech educated consumer will no longer accept gimmicks or cheap and artificial attempts to be seen to be adopting technology.

“We’re entering a phase where consumers will only embrace high tech solutions that feel as real and intuitive, or even more so, as traditional alternatives,” Luthy cautioned. “From wearables to AR, novelty isn’t enough. 

“Consumers in 2019 and beyond expect an immersive and sophisticated kind of tech-driven experience. Tech for tech’s sake is doomed to disappoint.

“To understand how to survive in a technological era, a deeper understanding of what motivates, satisfies and delights humans is required. Get to know human beings and what drives them.

“Don’t assume that online games are anchored in superficial needs like the desire for distraction or immediacy. Online games increasingly offer a depth of experience that taps into powerful human desires for a sense of belonging, self-actualisation, the pursuit of status and even a sense of purpose. 

“Digital does not mean ‘lightweight’ or insubstantial. In the virtual experience economy, digital experiences can be as impactful as their real-world counterparts.”

Community Clubs will have the chance to hear Luthy when he presents at an industry breakfast in Brisbane in March. The theme of the breakfast is Embrace Change: 5 trends to supercharge your strategy with Luthy offering insights on what trends the club industry needs to be aware of to strategically prepare for the future.

The breakfast will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday March 28 (7am – 9.30am) and tickets are $1,200 for a table of 10 or $130.00 individually. Bookings are strictly limited and can be made via the Expo’s website.